When your child is learning to read, it’s difficult to know which books they need, and how you can support and help teach them how to read at home.
There’s so much choice and sometimes the terminology - like ‘chapter books’, ‘early readers’, 'phonics for kids'- can be really confusing. Your child will have differing requirements when it comes to their reading material, too.
On the one hand, they’ll be starting to read simple texts, the first tentative steps in their reading journey; but they’ll also be enjoying the books that you’re reading to them, which are way beyond their reading ability.
So what books do you need to have at home?
Georgina Atwell, founder of the online children’s book community Toppsta recommends the following selection:
1. Learning-to-read book
The first book your child will need is a “learning-to-read” book.
These books are provided by the school and graded by ability, often called 'book bands' or 'reading levels' but you can also try this simple test at home. Each school is free to select their own reading programme, (reading levels are not set by the National
Curriculum) though many schools use the Biff, Chip and Kipper series, which was designed by educational experts and is divided into six reading stages.
The important thing to remember is that like growing, every child learns to read at their own pace, so don’t worry too much about what level they’re on and how they compare to their friends.
2. Picture books
Picture books are vital in the early stages of a child's reading journey as they provide a rich visual experience that complements and enhances your child’s understanding of phonics. If you’ve been reading picture books with your child at home, you’ll know that the vibrant illustrations bring the stories to life, making reading an immersive and enjoyable experience.
Once children start learning to read, it’s easy to assume that they don’t need picture books any more but the combination of text and pictures can really help children decode words and grasp the meaning of the text. You’ll find that if you go back to favourite picture books where your child already knows the words, they’ll start to connect the sound of the word they can hear, with the letters and words they can see on the page (particularly if you point to the words as you read them).
Additionally, picture books often employ repetitive patterns and rhymes that enhance phonic awareness and vocabulary development, so whatever you do, hang on to your picture books for a while longer.
3. A first chapter book
The third book you need at home is what is called a ‘chapter book’ or ‘early reader’. Normally these books are longer than picture books, perhaps around 100 pages in length but still have a relatively large font size, simple words, short chapters and plenty of pictures to hold the readers’ attention and help them understand what’s going on in the story.
There are tons of different chapter books available, so whether you’re on the hunt for laugh-out-loud fun, mischievous animal characters, a mystery to solve or a fantasy world to dive into, it’s worth asking around for recommendations, or you can check out a selection of our readers’ favourite chapter books over on our website.
In the beginning, you’ll be reading these chapter books to your child but as their reading develops, they’ll return to these books to read them for themselves. If they’re already familiar with the story, this will really help with their enjoyment and progress.
4. A longer story book
The final book you need in your collection is a longer storybook.
Though your child’s reading maybe in its infancy, reading longer, more complex stories will help develop their vocabulary and comprehension. These are the books where they can sit back and just listen to you read.
They won’t have many pictures to look at but this allows children just to listen and recover from the exhausting process which is learning to read. Being able to enjoy the sheer pleasure of stories and storytelling will also help them to associate reading with pleasure and not just homework. And together you can escape to whatever imaginary land you so wish, with all the joys of reading together and being able to chat about the story and the characters.
If you’re both too tired to read, audiobooks are a great alternative to snuggle up and listen to together but if you’re looking for ideas check out the recommended reading lists for each school year which all come highly recommended by our readers.